As printed in our December 2014 issue...

DECEMBER 19 SHOULD BE THE LAST opportunity for producers to sign up for the farm bill's Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy). Designed to protect milk margins, MPP-Dairy already has had two extensions for the 2015 rollout. Sign up at your local FSA office.

ABOUT 27 PERCENT of the nation's dairy producers - 12,521 actual farms - have signed up for MPP-Dairy as of December 5. Of that total, 6,528 signed up for the minimum coverage while 5,993 elected for additional premiums above the basic $4 margin protection.

OCTOBER MILK GREW 3.8 PERCENT nationally compared to the same time last year. Globally, New Zealand, the world's largest exporter, has expanded milk output 3 percent. The second largest dairy trader, the European Union and its 28 countries, could be up 3.7 percent.

TEXAS PASSED PENNSYLVANIA for the first time in monthly milk output as the Lone Star State produced an estimated 894 million pounds of milk, 4 million more than the Keystone State. While Pennsylvania should hold down the fifth position for 2014, next year could be different.

DAIRY EXPORTS FELL 8 PERCENT compared to last October. That was on top of September's 16 percent downturn from the same time last year. Strong milk output and growing inventories are partially to blame. October's exports represented 14.4 percent of total U.S. production.

SPOT CHEESE PRICES WERE OFF 60 CENTS in just the last month, down to the mid $1.50s. While December Class III futures traded near $17.80 per cwt., January to June contracts averaged closer to $16.

WITH STRONG DAIRY PRODUCT AVAILABILITY, prices have dropped steadily after reaching a high in February at New Zealand's Global Dairy Trade. In early December, the nine-product mix averaged $1.14 per pound. The slumping prices have sent the Kiwi dollar to a 2-1/2 year low.

LOW FEED COSTS HAVE TEMPERED falling milk prices as November's milk-feed ratio stood at 2.80. With a $23.40 All-Milk price, the total feed bill was $8.36 per cwt., for an income over feed cost of $15.04.

AVERAGE HERD SIZE ROSE BY 83 COWS from 1992 to 2012 (from 61 to 144 cows), reported USDA economists. However, due to growth in herds over 1,000 cows, the midpoint (where half the population resides) was actually 900 cows in 2012, up dramatically from 2002's 101 cows.

BRIEFLY: Genetically modified low-lignin alfalfa was deregulated by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). For more on the trait, see page 726 in the November issue. Glanbia announced it will spend $82 million to expand whey processing at its Gooding and Twin Falls, Idaho, plants. Dairy cow culling was off 278,000 head from January to October when compared to the same time last year.

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